Interview with 'The Raiders Guys'
The Indy Experience.com is proud to present an interview with the creators of Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb. Our interview consists of a compiled a list of detailed questions and answers about the Raiders remake including questions submitted by several Indiana Jones fans, two of whom have lucky enough to have seen the Adaptation. Each question is answered individually by the Adaptation's creators to give you an in depth look at the creation of this historic fan film.
- Question #1 -
What did Steven Spielberg and George Lucas think of the remake?
Chris Strompolos - "Indiana Jones": Spielberg really, really enjoyed [the film] and wrote us an unbelievable letter. We sent it to Lucasfilm per their request and a handful of folks there have seen it and enjoyed it immensely. Mr. Lucas has been a little busy and hasn’t had a chance to see it yet. Frankly, I'm glad that we've been contacted by Lucasfilm to see it and not by Lucas's lawyers to sue us. This is all icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned. I am thankful for everything.
Eric Zala (Director, "Belloq"): Well, to date we haven't heard from Mr. Lucas directly, except that a representative of Lucasfilm contacted us wanting to see it, and we’ve sent them over a copy. I hope that he likes it. Mr. Spielberg sent us a very kind letter... I'm looking at it framed and hanging on my wall right now, in fact. In it, he says that he was impressed and that he "beyond all the mimicry of the original RAIDERS, I saw and appreciated the vast amounts of imagination and originality you put into your film."
Jayson Lamb (Camera & Special effects, Technical Artisan): We haven’t heard from Mr. Lucas, but Sir Spielberg loved it! He actually told us that he watched it several times! And that was on an old, grainy, beat up 10 generation copy! No film/video maker can ever have higher praise than that. Unless you include Spielberg’s letter and hanging out with us for about 40 min!
- Question #2 -
Since I have not seen the film, I have to ask – to make your Belloq character as accurate as possible, did you swallow a fly?
Chris: We were good. Very, very good. But not that good. :)
Eric: I wish! (Despite the fact that I played Belloq...) Believe me, if we’d had some means of doing so and have it not appear cheesy, we would have (this was in the 80’s, before the age of digital editing and special effects).
Jayson: We joked about it. But for some reason we never seriously intended to do it. I guess we didn’t because it wasn’t in the original Raiders script.
What sucks, is now that I’m thinking about it, we could have done it! It wouldn’t have been that hard to cultivate some flies for filming. Then smear a little bit of honey (food for the fly) on Eric’s lip to keep the fly in place. Or put the honey just inside of his lip, so it would crawl in.
Not a very sanitary effect, but I bet Eric would of done it.
It is, of course, a lot easer to come up with great ideas in hindsight. What’s a challenge is coming up with the ideas while you're in the middle of the project and juggling a hundred different things at once. But if any of you have access to a time machine, I’ll gladly go back and put the fly in.
- Question #3 -
Do you guys consider Raiders of the Lost Ark to be your favorite film of all time?
Chris: I’m a film lover through and through – but it’s hard to even put Raiders into a “favorites” category. It is its own movie – standing alone for me. It was a definitive variable in my childhood and in a way – transcends anything classifiable in cinema for me. If it helps to answer the question, I can still watch Raiders and enjoy it. But - it’s hard to separate it from what we did just cause the original was so pivotal in defining my childhood. It serves as more an intense personal history than a “favorite movie.”
Eric: When friends ask me what my favorite films are, I exclude Raiders from the list. That’s because, speaking for myself personally, Raiders ceased being a movie for me at some point years and years ago. It’s been too defining a thing in my life for too long for me to call it merely a movie or film... it’s set aside in its own unique category, although I’d be hard-pressed to define what the category is... life catalyst, maybe? My personal zeitgeist?
Jayson: That depends on how you define “favorite film of all time”.
I actually have dozens of favorite films, which I love for different reasons. In my heart, the 1987 movie, Something Special, always comes to me when someone asks that question. But at the time Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, (I was in 5th grade) I would of said Jean Cocteau's 1946 French classic, Beauty and the Beast. The photography and make-up was exquisite. (I was a strange child. In 4th grade my favorite book-on-tape was The Death of Socrates, by Plato).
But if you asked me what I thought was the greatest rollercoaster movie of all time, a movie that lifted me out my adolescent rut and gave direction to my life - then that movie would definitely be Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- Question #4 -
What did you learn from your experience in making the Raiders Remake?
Chris: As our tribute to Raiders has had a “second coming” so to speak, I continue to learn from it. There is a great deal of reflection and perspective to be enjoyed from this now. What I learned and am learning....
Confidence. Courage. That “no” is usually the word you’ll hear the first 20 times you ask for something when you’re making a movie before you hear “yes” – and then you get a submarine. I learned that friendship is one of the strongest most important things one can ever have. Given all of the ups and downs we’ve had – we are all closer now than ever before. Problem solving, persistence. Love of snakes.
Eric: To accomplish something like this, which required the work and contributions, large and small, of many... you have to learn to be patient. We were working with a lot of kids, from school, from the neighborhood, and not all shared my passion for the details, for getting it right. Learning to work with and through very different human beings, to accomplish a purpose, that is what remaking Raiders required me to change about myself. It’s stuff that I still apply today.
Jayson: More like what I didn’t learn. Ok, um, here’s the tip of the iceberg of what I learned by making our little movie:
- Responsibility not to put the effects/movie over a person’s life or well being.
- Don’t blindly follow directions in a book. Always test out new ideas for safety.
- Attention to details
- Multi Tasking
- 3/4” analog Editing
- Came up with a lot of cool FX/make-up ideas I used in later projects
- And much, much more
- Question #5 -
How much of the original set pieces and props did you save?
Chris: Remnants of the sets still exist in Eric’s moms basement. The boulder. Lots of old Raiders memorabilia and research. The Ark. A few flags, My whip, jacket and shirt. Storyboards, sketches, production notes, Lots of comic books. Probably a bunch of other stuff I’m forgetting.
Eric: Hmm, let’s see... many of the fake snakes, spiders, and hand-sewn traditional Arab costumes were sold off or given away in a yard sale years ago, I think ... and our Medallion prop melted in the fire of the Bar Fight. However, we’ve still got the 6’ high fiberglass boulder, in the backyard... the Arab Swordsman’s Scimitar, my mom still keeps our Ark of the Covenant, stored in the attic... and there are still the Egyptian wall paintings and hieroglyphics festooned on the walls of my Mom’s basement, where we shot the Well of the Souls and Map Room... Anyone that buys the house later on will have to wonder about the previous occupants...
Jayson: I’m not sure. I know I still have the Arab robe that Chris wore. After I inherited it, when the movie was finished, I made it into an arty robe by spattering black and blue ink over it. Chris thinks it makes me look like a homeless person when I wear it. But I think its beautiful by any other name.
I might still have the Arab’s teeth and knife. A lot of stuff is buried away in boxes. One of these days I’ll have to see what treasures I still have.
- Question #6 -
Any chance of doing a remake of Temple of Doom or Last Crusade?
Chris: LOL!!! Ummm. No. Eric and I have always wanted to do the Flying Wing scene. That was one of the only scenes we left out. It would be fun as hell to do “scenes” from either Temple or Last Crusade – but the whole things, mmmm. No.
Eric: Quite unlikely! Although those films have their strengths, there’s nothing like the original Raiders, before or since. The story, the characters, we found so captivating, I think Chris and I really wanted to inhabit that world, as much as one could... and this was the best means of doing that. Remaking Raiders sounded like fun. A helluva lotta work, but rough-and-tumble fun. Even now, to me, it still does.
Jayson: Uh... ...no.
- Question #7 -
How has making this movie affected your love of Raiders, and are you able to watch it any longer? – Submitted by, Eric
Chris: I still love it. I have the box set and still love it completely.
Eric: It probably helped that, back when we started, in the early 80’s, this was before movies were readily available in the video store... so for the first few years, we hadn’t seen it that many times, we operated by memory. By the time Raiders came out on laserdisc mid-way through our making it, I’d already storyboarded all 602 shots, through cobbling together photos, storybooks, and memory. When we did see it again, after years of recreating it, it was akin to a religious experience... we felt it. Now... though every note of John Williams’ soundtrack and every word of Lawrence Kasdan’s dialogue is burned permanently into my memory cells...I still love Raiders, very much. I am still able to watch the original, feel a very powerful attachment, and still manage to see something new each time. How does it hold up so well?
Jayson: When I went to California College of Arts & Crafts, they taught us that if the viewer is first immersed into a work of art through a reproduction, instead of the original, then the reproduction becomes the original work of art. At least in the sub-consciousness of the viewer's mind.
For me, I had only seen Raiders once before filming. So when I watched it for the second time, a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but constantly compare it to ours, instead of vice-versa. It was a strange experience to view it this way. Because it's like spending years reenacting some historical event, then getting into a time machine and seeing the real thing in person.
Beyond that, I don’t know how to express in words, about my feelings towards Raiders. Other than saying it’s a GREAT ROLLERCOSTER RIDE regardless of how the experience is gained.
- Question #8 -
Now that the DVD's are out... do you see any details that you missed in your interpretation? – Submitted by, Eric
Chris: Of course. Lots of them. We were twelve. But as a handful of people have mentioned to us, it’s what we didn’t do at times that made some of the other things we did do all the more powerful and charming.
Eric: Oh, sure, of course. Even when we were making it, despite a great passion for getting the details right, I was all too aware of what was not right, what we left out, as concession to our limited resources. Yet, the most rewarding experience is watching our film with hardcore Raiders fans, who pound me on the back, delighting that we got in an esoteric detail, from the same November 1936 issue of Life magazine on the Pan Am Clipper, to the detail that Mr. Spielberg observed in his letter, our Indy’s voice rising as he says “It’s a date... you eat ‘em.” That people see and respond to that is very satisfying.
Jayson: When I recently watched the move again, I saw several details I would of loved to have done. The opening shot with the waterfalls really got to me. Because it’s a great shot and I knew several places in MS that looked just like it.
I also wished I did the fly in Belloq’s mouth and the plane fight scene. Over the past year I’ve been thinking of different ways we could of gotten over blowing up the plane. (making the bomb was the only FX I couldn’t do, mainly because it scared the hell out me when I made the test bomb). I also regret not doing the plane scene because Eric recently joked that I would of been perfect for the German Soldier sense I was really buffed back then. I would of shaved my head for part too. But I would have had to stand on a bunch of milk crate boxes to compensate for height difference. (right now I’m 5’2”, back then I was around 4’7” or so). Oh well.
- Question #9 -
Do you think there’s any chance of a DVD release of the remake?
Chris: For obvious reasons, this would be a legal minefield. We are lucky to have gotten the endorsements we’ve received thus far. A world wide theatrical release or release into the Home Entertainment market would involve armies of lawyers. If anyone could do it though it would be Scott Rudin. We’ll see. If there would be a way to do this and use the profits to educate young aspiring filmmakers – that would be wonderful.
Eric: That would be great. Back when Harry Knowles wrote his seminal review, he worked in a lobbying for our film’s inclusion with the impending release of the Indiana Jones box set. While that was not to be, we’ve even heard rumbling that some prominent industry figures were envisioning our film even having a nationwide theatrical release. That’d be immensely exciting, of course, though for either that or a DVD release to occur, many a legal hurdle would need to be cleared. Never can tell, though. I certainly never thought any of this would happen, either.
Jayson: Yes, definitely. The real question is when, not if. The answer to that question is - not for awhile. The first part is getting the powers that be to agree to distribute it. We’re currently wanting to set it up so the proceeds from the movie will go to or establish a young filmmakers foundation, but there are a lot of legal hurdles to get over before that happens.
The other part of the delay is that I’m currently in the process of digitally re-mastering and re-editing it, because the version we have now is about 6 generations, which means there’s a lot of audio hiss and lost of image quality.
So I want to go back with the original, 1stgeneration footage and clean it up. So when it gets distributed, it will be the movie we always intended to make, without the technical distractions.
I’m also in the process of making a documentary about us making our movie. It’s called “When We Were Kids”. It will be composed from our 23 hours of outtakes and recent interviews. I know that might sound like an ordinary documentary, but believe me when I say the outtakes are even more outrageous than the edited movie.
- Question #10 -
Can you tell us about the costume you used for Indiana Jones throughout filming?
Chris: In the wake of coming into contact with some pretty hardcore folks from Indy Gear, The Raider.net, The Indy Experience and Club Obi Wan forum - I feel a great deal of pressure from this question. I see the accuracy with which Indy fans obsess and argue about what Harrison wore in each film and the nuances of each item on his person. Remember, the Internet didn’t exist when we were kids and we did a lot of this stuff from memory, magazines and the movie theater. The jacket was a WWII bomber jacket, the hat was some Indy Fedora clone from some hat shop, but we also used a brown fedora from the Salvation Army I think. I went through a two bullwhips. I think I got them as gifts or birthday presents. The first I can’t remember. The second one, which I still have today, was bought at a feed store in central California. The bag was a leather hippie purse from the 60s that I got from my mom. I can’t remember where the shirt came from. My pants were brown corduroy Levi’s (blasphemy in the fan world I know). Whip latch was the snapping cuff of a brown vinyl jacket I cut up. Can’t remember which belts I used. My shoes varied from year to year – from penny loafers to duck boots to marine boots. We were creative and resourceful. If we did it again, I’d obviously log onto Indy Gear with a phone and my Visa card in hand and make some other choices. I think fans appreciate the emulation regardless.
Eric: Pretty primitive and not very good in the beginning but, like every other facet of what we did, it got better. I remember in the first year spray-painting this Members-Only jacket that Chris had, in a misguided attempt to make it look like a brown leather jacket. As soon as the spray-paint dried, it promptly peeled off. We then graduated to a vinyl faux-leather jacket, purchased from the local Salvation Army, and we thought naively was so cool. Eventually, by year three I think, we’d wised up, and got the means for a real brown leather jacket, along with the other Indy accoutrements of comparable authentic quality – fedora, shirt, holster, shoulder bag, boots. For some reason, now that I think of it, we never really got the pants right. Brown corduroys... wince. what were we thinking?
Jayson: I don’t know how we came up with Indy’s outfit. But I do know that Eric made the dozens upon dozens Arab costumes by himself. His mother showed him how to make them. He sewed them all on an old sewing machine, that his mom said she had always had enormous amount of trouble doing small jobs on.
I still have one of the robes and can honestly say that Eric did an amazing job of them. All the stitching is still intact and that’s with me wearing it around the house in the morning, all these years.
- Question #11 -
Can you tell us about your meeting with Mr. Spielberg and what brought about such an extraordinary occasion?
Chris: Following our film deal with Scott Rudin Productions, Mr. Rudin called Spielberg and was instrumental in this of course. Spielberg’s office then contacted our agency and our agency contacted us as we were driving around LA. We drove onto the lot, waited to see him and were greeted by him in a very relaxed, down to earth way. He is very kind, very down to earth man. He was relaxed, more than generous with his time and shared stories with us about Raiders, Harrison, Indy IV and making movies in general. We watched gag reels from Raiders and Temple of Doom that I don’t think anyone will EVER see. It was an incredible afternoon. A childhood dream come true and I will be thankful for this experience until I die.
Eric: We were in Los Angeles doing a bit of publicity, coordinated by our agent David Boxerbaum. As we’re driving around, David gives us a call on my cell, and tells us that we have a meeting with Steven Spielberg the next day. Emotions quickly shift from my initially feeling disbelief...to sick with nervousness...to elated... to sick. Apparently, Scott Rudin, the producer who purchased our life rights was gracious enough to arrange the meeting. No agenda... just... meet The Man himself. Unreal.
We arrived at Amblin the next day, and after waiting for a few minutes in a conference room, in walked Steven Spielberg. He welcomed us, sat down next to us, and for the next forty minutes or so we just chatted, about what it was like to make Raiders, what was behind the story, other great movies. He said that he wanted the fans to know that regarding Indy IV, they weren’t dragging their feet. Discussions over scripts were delaying things, but while it’d be easy to put out an average film, their commitment was to make sure that the new film was done right. He was very genuine, open, warm, real. When I mentioned that it would have been great to see deleted scenes from Raiders, he asked, “I think we have the gag reel here somewhere. Want to see it?” We all exchanged looks. This was too good to be true!
A few minutes later, we are sitting in Mr. Spielberg’s office, watching the gag reel that the crew put together with outtakes and funny moments from Raiders and Temple of Doom. It was hilarious, and I had the feeling that we were seeing something that very [few] people outside the original crews of those films had ever seen.
At the end, Mr. Spielberg was even kind enough to grant our request for a photo. As I said to Chris and Jayson upon our walking out of the Amblin offices, you know, it’s simply amazing to finally meet your boyhood hero. And on top of that, really wonderful when you realize, long afterwards, that you’ve chosen your heroes well.
Jayson: The three of us were in the car in LA. We had just come from an interview and I told Eric and Chris that at some point we were going to met Mr. Spielberg. They shook their heads and told me to “dream on”, or something like that.
A little while later, Eric’s cell phone rung. Chris answered it, it was our agent. A minute into the conversation Chris said he was going to be sick. But he held onto his cookies and continued the conversation on the phone. When he was done, he told Eric and me that we had an appointment to see Mr. Spielberg the next day.
Eric’s mouth dropped. I just smiled and said “Told ya so.” For the next few minutes they called me Nostajayus (Nostadamus). I joked a few more predictions off: like getting the key to the city in MS and how we will have brief cameos in Raider’s Pt. 4 flick (dream on).
The next day, I was a bit nervous. Thirty minutes before the meeting, I was really nervous. When we reached the waiting room to his office, I was really, really nervous and my bladder was full. After I relieved myself, before our meeting, I felt completely relieved and comfortable.
Actually, I felt very present and euphoric as we were led up to his office.
Mr. Spielberg is a very warm and paternal man. At the end of the day, he’s just little kid at heart who plays with very big toys. It was a deep honor to meet with him. My face was quite sore the next day from my constant grinning I did during our meeting. Actually it wasn’t a meeting, it was just the four of us hanging out and shooting the breeze for 40 minutes. How cool is that!
- Question #12 -
Outside of Steven Spielberg's response, what's been the most interesting/unexpected response you have received? (Submitted by Bill Hertzing)
Chris: The thing that has been most incredible is how its inspired people – young and old. In addition to the Indy fans of the world, it’s inspired people from all walks of life. We have gotten tons of responses from people that have been touched and inspired by our story. That is the most interesting and satisfying thus far. Well, meeting Spielberg and getting his blessing is pretty flippin’ amazing. That’s hard to beat.
Eric: For me, it’d probably hearing from the girl that I had the biggest crunch on, back in my elementary school, at age eight. Apparently, she heard about all the hoopla and tracked me down, twenty-five years later, to say hi. That was a name that I hadn’t heard in forever. While that doesn’t represent a romantic opportunity (we were eight, plus I’m very happily married and have a newborn baby boy!), it is absolutely amazing to hear from people that I lost track of so long ago, now emerging from my past. It feels like I’m on a surreal episode of “This Is Your Life”.
Jayson: The 4 minute standing ovation we got at the Alamo Draft House after our showing. My brain froze at that moment and it still is frozen with this barrage of attention we’ve been getting since then.
I’m convinced that this is all an elaborate, expensive prank on us. I’m mean, this movie has been sitting in our closets for the last fifteen years, for gosh sakes. We made it when we were kids and didn’t know what we were doing. Now, suddenly out of nowhere, we’ve receiving all of this hype and praise. Yep, we're on the show Punk’d, I just know it.
Sometimes it’s a lot easier to deal with the wonderments of life, when you live on the island of denial. That’s how I’ve been getting through all of these national interviews and meetings with celebrities. Yep, this is all a joke. At any moment, Ashton Kutcher will pop out. Maybe there is something worthwhile about our movie beyond the experience of making it. Mm... maybe there is something worthwhile about our movie beyond the experience of making it.
- Question #13 -
Are you disappointed that they haven’t made another Indiana Jones film? (Submitted by Eric)
Chris: Well, the thing that’s disappointing is the delay in getting the script completed. I’m confident that between Lucas and Spielberg, the fourth installment will be great. It makes me a little melancholy to think that Harrison is getting old and the great era of the Indiana that children of the 80s grew up with will soon be over. Who’s gonna take up the hat and the whip and keep going? Ahhh, life.
Eric: I didn’t really expect them to, after the third one, mainly because it seemed intended to draw the mythology to a close, riding off into the sunset and all. And, that was the year (1989) that we finished our own remake and showed it at last in our hometown... so I guess that seemed like the year of emotional closure for me and Indiana Jones. I thought that I was done. Little did I know! So I was surprised when I heard that a fourth installment was planned. When it’s released, guess who’s in line. You know, I think Chris, Jayson and I will probably have to all fly in to a central location and see it together, for old times’ sake.
Jayson: Mr. Spielberg asked us to relay a message to the Raiders fans. He wanted us to inform all of you that they haven’t been dragging their heels in the making the 4th Indiana Jones movie. There is a script that they have right now. But it isn’t as good as they would like it to be. So instead of rushing out a junk film, they’re going to make something worthy of the Raiders name.
So no, I’m not disappointed that the 4th movie isn’t out yet, because I can’t wait to see another damn good film, as opposed to watching something that was slapped together because the fans pushed them to make the movie as quickly as possible.
Please give Mr. Spielberg and company encouragement and support to make the best movie they can.
I always like to think of anticipation as one of the greatest things artists and magicians have to offer. It's like the night before Christmas. But if this film is unduly rushed, it will be like the movie Godzilla 2000.
- Question #14 -
How many different locations were used? And were they all in close proximity to each other? (Submitted by Holly)
Chris: Eric has a better memory with these sorts of things than myself. My estimation is maybe fifteen or sixteen separate locations – interior and exterior. They were all somewhat close to one another. The farthest we ventured off was to Lizana, MS for the excavation site and to Alabama for the submarine shoot.
Eric: Nearly all of the interiors were shot in the basement of my Mom’s house in Ocean Springs, Mississippi – the Cave scene, the Idol room, the Pit scene... the Bar Scene (nearly burned the house down!), the Map Room, the Well of the Souls, even. We lived down there all summer, every summer, it seemed. Exteriors included the Tchoutacabouffa River in nearby Biloxi for the River Scene... alleyways in the Gulfport business district for the Cairo Street Fight scene... Finding a location for the Sahara desert in Mississippi was tough. We finally found this dirt farm (“we sell dirt”), where earth-moving machines has created pits and dunes out of this red clay, used in construction. We had found our desert! All was shot on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, in fairly close proximity (45 minutes drive max). The sole exception was the Submarine scene. For that scene, we drove a caravan of vehicles an hour and a half away to Mobile, Alabama, to Mobile Bay, where an old WWII submarine was retired and on display as a tourist attraction. We got permission and shot carefully around the tourists... who didn’t quite know what to make of us.
Jayson: I went a little bit overboard in answering this one, but I was really curious to know the answer as well. So I went through our entire movie and counted up all the scenes and locations.
It should be noted that many of the sets were made years before they were actually filmed. So for 7 years, Eric’s ENTIRE house was a giant, walk-through museum to Raiders of the Lost Ark.